A return to narrow, stealth-based assassination gameplay is the name of the game for Ubisoft Bordeaux, the developers behind Assassin’s Creed Mirage, the forthcoming 13th main entry in the storied Assassin’s Creed franchise. By setting the game primarily inside the boundaries of 9th-century Baghdad, the game feels grounded in a true metropolis of an environment for the first time in a long time. But by retaining the same open combat mechanics and skill trees of the series’ more recent open-world entries, Mirage feels like a truly modern iteration of the longwinded series.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is truly all about the parkour, sneaking, and assassinating, just like the days of traversing the Lavant as Altaïr or Italy as Ezio. Climbing and traversal are tethered once again to certain paths with handholds, swings, and pole vaults, rather than the more open-faced mountain climbing you could commit to at the push of a button in recent entries. This makes parkour feel exciting again whether you’re sneaking around rooftops in the city or climbing scaffolding in the Assassin’s fortress of Alamut. It’s a strategic endeavor rather than merely a nuisance obstacle to just navigate around.
With the tweaks in traversal back to an older feel also comes a tweak back to an assassination system more akin to earlier entries in the series. Stealth never entirely went away, but it became less emphasized in favor of raw combat. Now, thanks to a tighter urban environment and intentional emphasis on assassinations, Assassin’s Creed Mirage is practically begging you to put your swords away and use your hidden blade. Open combat is based on combos of light and heavy attacks, parries, and dodges that feel most akin to the weight and heft of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, but the sheer number of enemies and the amount of health they possess makes failure quite likely if you get caught in enemy territory without an exit plan.
The world of Assassin’s Creed Mirage is exciting. The map is littered with little visual details and ways to emphasize color in an otherwise fairly brown and grey environment. Basim, the game’s main character, requires no prior experience with him during Assassin’s Creed Valhalla to immediately understand both his motivations and his shortcomings. What is maybe the most exciting though, is the way Bagdhad truly feels like the center of culture and commerce the world over that it was. Instead of the mere oblique references to foreign lands or the small number of characters that hailed from them of recent Assassin’s Creed entries, everywhere you turn in Mirage is evidence that Bagdhad’s denizens hale from everywhere from Europe to Africa to East Asia. It helps make the game feel all the more authentic as you explore its bazaars and back alleys.
The biggest modern Assassin’s Creed system that Mirage adopts and expands on is Investigations and Cases. All of your recent encounters with the Order of the Ancients in recent games included a menu containing the names, images, and information about different members as you uncovered clues about them and assassinated them one by one. The way Assassin’s Creed Mirage structures this menu and links various objectives together visually gives it the sense that you’re really trying to uncover a mystery. Objectives are tethered together as different cases, one leading to the next, with many accessible to investigate in the order of your choice.
Once the plot thickens and a major assassination target is revealed, branching paths to completing that quarry untether. Investigating certain areas, eavesdropping on certain people, finding certain objects, or paying certain bribes can lead you to different circumstances with different advantages and disadvantages when the moment to make the kill finally strikes. It’s far from new in Assassin’s Creed games to offer multiple ways to complete a major assassination, but in previous iterations of this system, the options were usually spelled out for you and linear. Here, your initial options are only hinted at, so your Eagle Vision plays a big role in finding out how to progress, and even still, surprises may be sprung on you mid-hunt that instantly affect your options and outcomes.
Assassin’s Creed Mirage is true to its objective: marrying classic Assassin’s Creed stealth and a narrower location with modern improvements to the combat, upgrades, and interfaces. For fans of any era in the franchise’s long history, this will surely be the Assassin’s Creed you’re looking for.